Go Green and Promote Recycling in Cape Town

According to Brian Tommy – owner of L&B recycling in Cape Town, “there is a lot corporates can do to decrease their carbon footprint and it should be at the top of their list of priorities.” Traditionally, the term ‘carbon footprint,’ refers to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by an individual, event or organisation. But today the term has come to mean so much more. A company’s carbon footprint can be extended to include its overall environmental impact – how it expends natural resources, its approach to ecological preservation, its stance on environmental matters.

At a time when the global environment is under considerable strain, corporates play a significant role in reducing society’s overall carbon footprint. It’s time for companies to review their environmental policies. Many local companies have identified that there are a number of sites dedicated to recycling in Cape Town, and that’s a great place to start. Sometimes what’s required is a major shift, and other times, a few simple steps are all it takes to make less of a negative impact on our fragile ecosystem. Here are a few solutions that companies can implement quickly and easily:

  1. Incentivise Recycling

Now is an optimal time for companies to prioritise recycling. According to a recent article by Georgina Crouth for IOL: “As much as 65 percent of the general waste that we generate could be recycled, yet we only currently recycle about 10 percent of our waste.” These figures are staggering. Companies can play a big role in changing the status quo. One way of doing this is by incentivising employees to recycle. Why not host interdepartmental competitions within companies, where individual departments are challenged to bring in the most recyclable waste? Smaller monthly prizes could lead up to a more substantial prize at the end of the year. This prize could be incorporated into the company’s end of year staff awards. Transporting this waste doesn’t have to be a struggle. A number of companies who do recycling in Cape Town, as well as organisations in other provinces, collect waste from companies directly and transport them to processing plants. We have the resources to make a difference.

2. Go Paperless – Like Mr Price

35% of our waste stream is made up of paper, and even though paper recycling companies abound, the average corporate could still make a better effort to get all kinds of paper recycled, including boxes, magazines and food containers. The ideal solution is to simply introduce a culture of paper-saving amongst employees. Methods to curb paper usage by reducing printing allowances is one way to do it. Another method is to reuse paper that has only been printed on one side. Programs like Adobe Acrobat Professional and other pdf creators allow for documents to be signed electronically – reducing the necessity for printing. Popular fashion retailer, Mr Price, has found a simple way to become paperless on a customer-facing level. Instead of printing receipts, customers can now get their receipts emailed to them, a few seconds after they have made their purchase. Less printing, less paper usage, less carbon footprint.


  1. Invest in Green Initiatives

Most South African companies, whether large or small, have some form of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) objective or program. The benefits of participating in these kinds of programs are numerous. Studies have shown that companies that adopt CSR objectives benefit from an enhancement of their public image, and a lower employee turnover. The South African Companies Act 61 of 1972 does not oblige companies to engage in CSR projects. However, South Africa’s Policy Document and King II and King III reports provide best practice guides on how South African companies can play a role in addressing social, environmental and economic concerns. A number of NGO’s that contribute to reducing the country’s carbon footprint, are always in need of support. WWF South Africa is a branch of one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organisations. The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa is another leading body with a 90 year history of supporting sustainable initiatives. Groundwork is a non-profit environmental justice service and developmental organization working primarily in Southern Africa in the areas of Climate & Energy Justice, Coal, Environmental Health, Global Green and Healthy Hospitals, and Waste. These are just three of a myriad of options that companies have to choose from if investing green is part of how they would like to get behind positive change.

  1. Save Water – Like Tribe Coffee in Cape Town

With just 28% water capacity left in the 15 dams that supply Cape Town, serious and concerted action has never been more necessary. This water crisis spurred the owners of Tribe Coffee on to come up with a solution to reduce the company’s water consumption drastically. The solution is a simple one – instead of using water to wash dishes, they make use of recyclable dishes. Tribe Coffee has done away with ceramic dishes and replaced them with recyclable take away cups and plates. Customers are served food on compostable balsa wood boats. This type of wood is paper thin and does not take water to make. The paper cups are fully recyclable, with ink made from soy. Once all the take away containers have been collected, companies who do recycling in Cape handle the rest. The result? Tribe Coffee saves 480 litres of water every day. “We cannot give back but we can take less. That’s the principle this initiative is grounded on,” said Jake Easton, co-owner of Tribe. Conserving our most precious natural resource on a large scale requires collective approaches like these.